The Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) leaders – who were protesting against the controversial Agnipath scheme – were reportedly harassed and picked up by the Delhi Police on Sunday.
A statement released by the two organisations said that the police “brutally detained” activists who were participating in a ‘Parliament Chalo’ march. Among the detained were DYFI President A A Rahim, DYFI General Secretary Himagnaraj Bhattararchya, SFI General Secretary Mayukh Biswas, DYFI Delhi Secretary Aman Saini, SFI Secretary Pritish Menon and JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh.
The statement alleged: “Activists were harassed by the police where women activists were assaulted and manhandled by male constables. Several activists suffered injury whereas one activist's clothes were torn apart. The brutality was of such an extent that even a Rajya Sabha MP [A A Rahim] was not spared.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Pritish Menon said, “We were marching peacefully. But suddenly, the police stopped us on Parliament Street. They then beat us mercilessly and dragged us into the bus.”
Aishe Ghosh said that she, too, was dragged mercilessly and picked up nu the police. She said, “The activists have been harassed by the police. Women protesters were assaulted by the male constables. Several protesters received injuries, while a woman protester’s clothes were torn!”
Ahana, a student at the Gargi College told NewsClick that she was brutally beaten up by the police. “I have participated in many protests in the past… and the police have beaten up the protesters in the past as well. But it was not such a vicious attack before,” she said.
“When the march started, there was no women police personnel but one. That's why in the beginning, only male policemen stopped us and touched our private parts in a bad way. Later, the women police personnel arrived, but their attitude was no different. They also grabbed at our clothes and body parts; they tore our clothes. The police personnel even kicked us,” said Ahana.
The police allegedly pushed and beat up reporters as well who were present for the coverage of the protest. Ashwin, a reporter, who works for Kerala's local TV channel Keralai Samachar, told NewsClick that the police got violent with the protesters as well as him. “I saw that the male policemen were kicking a female protester in her stomach with his boots. So, I approached them and asked them why are they acting in this manner and that it is wrong. The policeman then proceeded to slap me twice. They misbehaved with other mediapersons too.”
The joint statement by SFI and DYFI said that the “repression of the voices of youth highlights the autocratic nature of the central government”. It also condemned the arrests of Sagar Gautam, secretary of SFI Saharanpur and Nirangkush Nath, secretary of SFI Assam, who was arrested at a conference at Tinsukia. Both have been arrested for participating in the arrests against the controversial scheme.
Calling the Agnipath recruitment policy a ‘disatster’, the statement said, “This policy will result in generating more than 35,000 jobless recruits looking for work each year. As of 2021, the Indian Army had a shortage of 104,653 personnel. Moreover, now the central government has decided to recruit through short-tenure conscription of four years, after which three-fourths of the soldiers will be retired without pension or gratuity. The policy is a direct threat to the sovereignty of our nation. The neoliberal agenda of the central government aims for contractualisation of every job in the country. The latest threat to military recruitment is another attempt to dilute and privatise the public assets of the country.”
In the aftermath of the nationwide protests against the recruitment scheme, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday had approved a proposal to reserve 10% of the job vacancies in the Ministry of Defence for ‘Agniveers’ meeting requisite eligibility criteria.
Congress holds 'Satyagraha' at Delhi's Jantar Mantar in support of Agnipath protests
Congress MPs and leaders sat on a 'Satyagraha' at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday in solidarity with the youths protesting the Centre's newly announced Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces.
Congress leaders and supporters criticised the BJP-led central government and said that the Agnipath scheme is not beneficial for the country's youth and also jeopardises national security.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party leaders Jai Ram Ramesh, Rajiv Shukla, Sachin Pilot, Salman Khurshid and Alka Lamba took part in the 'Satyagraha'.
"The scheme should be rolled back," Pilot told PTI on the sidelines of the 'Satyagraha'.
Appealing to the protesting youths not to resort to violence, he said, "Protesting the scheme is their right but it should be done in a peaceful way. There should be no violence."
Youths in several parts of the country have been protesting against the contentious defence recruitment scheme. Over the past few days, incidents of protesters vandalising railway stations, setting trains on fire and blocking roads and railway tracks have been reported from different cities and towns.
Heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces was seen at the protest site. The entry and exit points to Jantar Mantar were blocked.
The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths in the age bracket of 17-and-half to 21 years for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.
The personnel to be recruited under the new scheme will be known as Agniveers. A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel and cut ballooning salary and pension bills.